In a recent tweet on December 4, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declared radical action to reduce immigration, stirring apprehension among groups of Indian students already in the UK or planning to pursue studies in the coming years. This unexpected stance has left many Indian students worried, considering the traditionally welcoming nature of the UK, especially under a government led by an individual of Indian heritage.
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) reported in 2018 that over 750,000 students annually choose the UK for higher education, spanning various disciplines and courses. The issuance of student visas has seen a significant surge, with 623,700 visas issued in 2022 compared to 404,400 in 2019.
For Indian students, the numbers have notably increased, with 1,42,848 student visas granted to Indian nationals in June 2023 alone, reflecting a 54% rise compared to June 2022. Indian students constitute one-third of total sponsored study grants to main applicants, making them the largest group among all nationalities, according to a report from the UK Home Office.
According to reports from The Indian Express, despite the significant Indian population in the UK, exceeding 1.8 million, concerns have arisen due to recent policy changes. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a ban on overseas students bringing their families to the UK, except those on postgraduate research degrees. Furthermore, international students can no longer switch from student visas to work routes until they complete their studies, effective January 2024.
The one-year Master's degree, preferred by many international students, especially Indians, is impacted by these changes. Previously, students could bring their families with them, but the new rules limit this option. Lord Karan Bilimoria, Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, expressed concerns about losing high-quality master's students due to these policy tweaks.
The data also reveals that the growth in international students, particularly Indians, is noticeable at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. However, the recent immigration policy changes have raised questions about the future choices of students and the potential impact on the UK's attractiveness as an education destination. Lord Bilimoria cited examples from top business schools and MBA programs where students expressed reluctance to choose the UK if they couldn't bring their dependents.
In light of these developments, the concerns and uncertainties among Indian students planning to study in the UK have intensified, prompting a reassessment of the country's appeal as a preferred destination for higher education.